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Poster: elbow1126 Date: Nov 10, 2011 8:07am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: "Keith is low in the mix"

This has been the primary criticism of the E72 release and I have been thinking about what this actually means for some time but never got around to writing about it. Dudley Dead's comments about Keith being higher in the mix in the new RT release (see the '67 TDIH thread) inspired me to take a moment and put my thoughts down as well as ask a question.

First it is a mix of sounds within a finite space, therefore to make Keith higher in the mix, you would have to make somebody else lower in the mix. To my tin ears, the instruments that are highest in the mix are Jerry and Phil with maybe Billy slightly behind them. Bobby and Pigpen aren't really much higher than Keith so lowering them would make them disappear and that doesn't seem appropriate and the vocals seem to be at the appropriate level for the music so i don't think I would touch them either (so no, you can't choose Donna!). So if you really wanted Keith higher in the mix, would you be willing to do so at the cost of hearing Jerry, Phil or Billy at their current levels? Or would you just drop Pig and Bob out of the sound?

For me the answer is no and here is why. In thinking about the instruments, i suspect that if one were in those old European halls back in 1972 or probably almost any time that Keith was playing in the band, he would also be the lowest in the mix because of the nature of the instrument he played. An acoustic piano has almost no sustain to its notes and even mic'ed up could never complete with the electrified instruments the others were playing or the percussive sound of drums. Again, I never saw the band with Keith so I may be wrong about this but I suspect that having Keith high in the mix would not have been a very accurate reproduction what was heard in the concert halls. Finally as i mentioned to DD in the '67 thread, i think in '76 with the mellow sound, Keith would have been easier to hear as there would be more space in the mix. That seemed to fade by '77 as precision took over hold again.

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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Nov 10, 2011 10:01am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

From what I've listened to so far I wouldn't say at all that Keith is mixed too low,in fact I'd say it was just about right. The piano is not a lead instrument in the Grateful Dead soundscape, it's an accompaniment - its primary role is to augment the guitars and vocals not to challenge them.

Your thoughts on the older concert halls is interesting - I'd have thought, if anything, they would be ideal for the piano, having been built with that kind of acoustic in mind. Of course, Phil Lesh's bass thundering through a stack of amps would probably scatter your average symphony orchestra to the four winds.

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Nov 10, 2011 11:48am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

I think you are correct in that keyboards were mostly to fill in the harmony, and provide a background for the the guitarists (mainly Jerry) . I think Brett probably got more solo time than any of the piano/organ players (not a lot of Tom Constanten solos out there...). They were really happy with Keith when they first got him, and that he remained a subtle, tasteful player ( as lest before the drugs etc. started taking him down), he fit in with what they wanted . Even when he does solo, he usually keeps it brief . Bob Weir is hardly a soloist, though on the Europe tour, he almost is one ! What he is playing is often pretty interesting , and his totally idiosyncratic playing is a secret weapon of the Grateful Dead . I guess, cornered with the choice of hearing Bobby clearer or Keith clearer , It sorta has to be Weir . But being a piano guy, I wish I could hear Keith just a LITTLE clearer . But then, again, even with these wonderful cds, it is not always easy to hear exactly what Billy is doing all the time, for example .
But it is great to hear the 2 "soloists" loud and clear. The magic dance between Jerry and Phil is a continual wonder !
As to the halls, they would not have to play as loud . The PA , for sure would not need to be pumped as loud . I wonder if they played quieter in these concert halls ? The shows they did there sure sound great .

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Poster: cvenez Date: Nov 10, 2011 12:55pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

I always wondered about this myself, not so much with the official Europe releases (which I have not heard yet), but in general. If you listen to the run when Keith first joined the band from Oct-Dec '71, he's often very up front in the mix, sometimes as loud as Garcia's guitar. There are also several shows from 1973, none which I can point to off the top of my head, where he's pretty prominent as well. Could be a function of the venue, the piano itself, or how the shows were recorded, but as he's my favorite of the Dead's keyboardists, I do find myself wishing he was a little louder during the shows where it's hard to hear him. His playing really complimented Garcia's amazingly well, and often times he was right in line with what Weir was playing.

Weir definitely should have been up front in the mix during the Europe tour all the way through 1974. His playing was by far the best its ever been during that time, and at times rivaled Garcia's. I remember reading an interview with Garcia somehere a long time ago where he spoke about how Weir was able to do some things on the guitar that he (Garcia) couldn't. I think he was talking specifically about how Weir was bridging China Cat and Rider with the instrumental bit they did during '72-74. I could listen to those jams all day long!

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Poster: Diamondhead Date: Nov 10, 2011 3:52pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

"and at times rivaled Garcia's"

Sorry, I agree with Dennis. As good of a rhythm player Bob was, to my 65 yo ears, he absolutely does not have the lead guitar gene. He's good at interesting little 3 or 4 note combos and that's about it - he couldn't string together a good melody to save his life. And he was standing next to one of the great melodists of the 20th century.

PS - the interesting little riff that he plays in China Cat? Garcia.

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Poster: Cliff Hucker Date: Nov 10, 2011 2:43pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

"...and at times rivaled Garcia's."

Wow! That's some good shit you're smoking!

Sour Diesel?

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Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Nov 10, 2011 12:54pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

I think that Keith (on E72) could be just a smidge louder, without any sacrifice of Weir, Pig et al... it's a very individual thing and a delicate art. (If Keith was at a 5, I'd go to 6.) Your point is well-taken though, regarding miking a piano vs. direct line thru guitars, the size of venues and the echo/reverberation problems each hall presents.

That said, I saw the band at some larger venues, late 70s... if you were on stage left/audience right, it was totally unbalanced - way too much Keith. Unbearable. Could not hear Weir at all. Sounded much like the recent 77 Broome County show someone posted, very jangley, brittle piano.

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Poster: questionoflife Date: Nov 12, 2011 4:43am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

I think this problem carried on beyond the 70s, as evidenced by early 90s soundboards from the Bruce/Vince era. I usually need to strain my ear to hear Bruce, but--try as a may--I have yet to hear a recording where Vince is buried in the mix.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Nov 10, 2011 2:05pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

I can't claim any expertise on how the mix works or any of the other sonic questions,but as a listener I find the breakdown to be Jerry as the only lead instrument,Keith and Weir are main support players and regardless of Phil of playing a much more out front style bass,he and Billy should bring up the rear as rhythm sections usually do.My preference would be more of Keith and Weir's interplay with Jerry,than Phil's thumping bass,even turned down somewhat you should be able to hear Phil.If it comes down to Keith/Billy I am wiling to sacrifice some drums for more piano.

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Poster: leftwinger57 Date: Nov 12, 2011 3:32am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

I do believe that in the early 70s the piano wasn't the easiest of instruments to both keep in tune and then to mike properly. Generally the piano was used as a rythem fill type of instrument . It was not meant to take the lead especially in this band like Elton, Billy Joel, Dr. John whose pianos were miked very differently as a lead instument.
As a side note if you notice on the WOS set up the side speakers are called piano fills so Jerry and whom ever had the other one could gage what was going on w/ Keith.

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Nov 10, 2011 9:50am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

I think the with E72 Jeffery Norman decided to take Keith down a notch from his mixes on previous issues ( I did compare "Steppin' Out" songs with the new set ).
I'm going to guess, he wanted to bring Bob forward . Sonically and, in the stereo image , Bob and Keith overlap . He could have placed Keith further left in the mix , but that would have violated the band placement . Also I think he said in one of those Dead.net interviews ,he though (now) that Keith was too loud on these tapes .
I am glad to here what Weir is doing , so it is a trade off .
As the E72 tapes are multitrack , you can alter the mix . I believe , this recent 76 release is take from 2 track, recordings, and the the mix is pretty much already set . So if someone is loud, or too soft , you are pretty much stuck with what you have ( there are some tricks to alter this slightly ).
It was, apparently, not easy to integrate an acoustic piano, into this electric group . Not having stage amps, he was at the mercy of the PA, and your comments on halls is relevant .There are some soundboards , where it is hard to
"find him", and some where he is much more present , this new RT , among them .

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Nov 10, 2011 2:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

I have to completely disagree with your thoughts!

Since E72 was a multitrack, Keith had his own track. They could have made him as high in the mix as they wanted, without 'lowering' anybody else. (Unlike the 2-tracks used for the DP/RT releases, where they generally can't alter instrument levels. But even on the Europe 2-tracks that circulated, Keith could be higher in the mix - without detracting from the other instruments!) You don't have to lower Weir a notch to bring up Keith, as previous official mixes of E72 tapes have shown.

And the mix is not really related to the volume in the halls - in the early '70s the tapemix was independent of the PA mix. If you check out the audience tapes of 4/29/72 or 9/9/72 or 10/30/72 or 11/13/72, Keith is just as loud as Weir. There are also various audience tapes where Keith is the loudest instrument (6/8/74 comes to mind), others where he's at equal volume with the others, and others where he's much quieter. So how loud Keith sounded to the audience was not at all consistent. (A lot probably depended on where you were sitting. The most consistent thing about room mixes is that Jerry is almost always the loudest - he often blares out on audience tapes much more than on the equivalent SBDs!)

We also have previous official mixes to compare to, in which Keith was mixed higher. On Steppin' Out, Keith was placed on the side; in the new mixes, he's in the middle between the two guitars. Since Weir is a bit louder, this makes Keith harder to make out. (I thought the 4/8/72 Dark Star, for one, suffered a bit by burying Keith like this.)
On top of that, sometimes he's mixed MUCH lower than he was on Steppin' Out, to near-inaudibility. The 5/7/72 second-set tracks are a glaring example. On the Steppin' Out tracks from 5/7, Keith was up OK; on the new mix he's all but disappeared sometimes. (Perhaps this is to hide tuning issues?)
Different shows are mixed differently, though, and I haven't gone through them all. 4/24, for instance, sounds about the same as Rockin' the Rhein, so I'd guess they used the same mix. On 4/26, though Keith is moved again from the side to the middle, he's almost as clear as on Hundred Year Hall. Note the piano difference in the 5/24 Lovelight, though, where Keith was up fine on the Rhein but is much quieter in the new mix.
So Keith's levels can vary in the mix from show to show, and even within the same show.

(As an aside - Keith's level is about the same in the 4/14/72 Good Lovin' as on the Europe '72 CD reissue. BUT - in the Caution, Pigpen wails a couple times right after they start Caution. You could hear it on the Europe '72 CD. But these wails have been MIXED OUT of the new release! A small point; but one little detail overlooked by Norman in the mixing...)

Overall, the effect is to make the band more guitar-centered - which of course is natural, since this was a guitar band - unless you believe that Keith was playing some good stuff, and want to hear what he's doing! There are many points where he's really blended in with Weir in this mix and it's harder to pick out his notes. During the songs this is not a big problem; but in the jams where Keith played a more equal role, it's distressing!
There was also an interview with Jeff Norman months ago when he was mixing, saying that he was bringing Keith down in the mix because he felt that sometimes Keith "gets in the way".

So the mixing difference is intentional - it has nothing to do with the 'finite space' or the hall sound. I think this time around, Norman wanted Keith to blend in more with the overall band sound. Unfortunately, this makes the new mixes not too worthwhile as an archival record of the shows, when one of the key players is frequently less audible! (And some small parts may be mixed out entirely.)

This post was modified by light into ashes on 2011-11-10 22:32:10

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Nov 10, 2011 4:10pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

Perhaps what I am hearing is not Weir boosted, but Keith brought down , and thus Bobby sounding clearer . I like the set, but I am keeping my "tapes" of the earlier circulating "mixes" as well as the previous issues .

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Nov 10, 2011 2:58pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

I am of the mind that if at any time you say that Keith's playing "gets in the way",you should be removed from any project involving the Grateful Dead's music.Not having much knowledge or interest in the nuts and bolts of how the original source of the music is altered to be delivered to us a listening audience,I find it disturbing that it seems so subjective,that an engineer's preferences so impact what we hear,especially one that would say something as stupid as Keith's playing gets in the way.Keith's playing on the Europe 72' tour was integral to the music and should be featured,not lowered,and the fact that he is missing or hard to hear in some of the more jam oriented material is inexcusable,get it right on the jams,I don't give a fuck about the Sugaree's. Armed with this new information,I'm going to listen with a more critical and discerning ear.

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Poster: elbow1126 Date: Nov 10, 2011 2:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

You always disagree with me! That's okay at least it creates discussion.

When you start with 16 track recordings, don't you have to master them down to 2 tracks for stereo sound on a CD? Ultimately the space is finite, regardless of how many tracks you start with and how easy it is to adjust one musicians levels, when you put it together, they all can't be at the same level or you won't be able to hear anyone properly so if someone is higher then someone else has to be lower.

As for the sound in the halls, i was not suggesting it influenced what was on the tapes, i was suggesting that it if you were standing in the hall, it was more likely that Keith would be harder to hear with all of those electrified instruments and that having Keith low might reflect what the concerts actually sounded like to the attendees. So of course i understand that mix was intentional. I was just questioning whether the intent was to capture what it actually sounded like. I don't think pointing to the 2-track recordings is proof that the sound is off. Those can't really capture what the mix was in the room because they are already flattened to 2-tracks and the mix may depend on who was recorded on which track. The audience tapes might give you a better idea, however that may depend on where you were in the hall as unclejohn52 points out. We don't know where the tapers were for those auds and based on a conversation i had once with Harvey Kaslow, i wouldn't assume the notes for the recordings are correct. Finally i haven't done the side by sides with Steppin' Out or Rockin' the Rhein but whose to say those were mixed properly? Clearly your personal preference is the Steppin' Out mix which is fine. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder and perhaps if i did the side by side, I would like it better as well. I am just wondering if it more accurately reflects the concert experience.

Somewhat unrelated, i did notice one difference between the 4-24 shows that didn't require the side by side listening. On Rockin' the Rhein, when Jerry is singing Dark Star, i can hear an echo of his vocals that i always thought was kind of an odd thing to hear on a sbd recording. I don't hear it on the new release. Perhaps this is a case where the sound in the hall was not as accurately reproduced, although i don't miss the echo.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Nov 10, 2011 5:17pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

Well, I'm not an audio engineer, but I do believe one player can be brought up more in the mix without having to drop someone else's levels, even if you're mastering down to 2-track. You don't hear other instruments going down when Pigpen starts playing organ, for instance.

I don't believe that the mix is really supposed to reflect what the room sounded like. (Otherwise, why was Keith moved to the middle?) A listen to any of the audience tapes from '72 I pointed out will illustrate pretty well that Keith was not hard to hear at all, at least where those tapers were.
There are many ways to mix the SBD tracks, of course - heck, they could've put Jerry in the middle & Keith on far left, or anything - so what the most 'proper' mix is is anyone's judgment. How high Keith should be is really just a matter of taste!
But, if you're comparing to what it really sounded like, an audience tape is the only real, 'true' record we have of that. So 4/29/72 makes the best comparison.
And right away, there's a difference - Keith apparently was not in the recording mix at the start of the show; so when Playin' starts on the AUD, he's right there, whereas on the SBD he doesn't show up for a few minutes. (That kind of thing we're used to from other SBD tapes, though!)
Skipping ahead to a second-set song, Greatest Story, we find that Keith is very prominent on both AUD and SBD. I think he stands out more in the AUD, due to the brighter room echo. And, just as I found on 4/14, a rather nice Donna wail right before the solo at the 3-minute mark has been mixed out by Norman!
Skipping ahead to Caution, the piano still sounds OK on the SBD, but seems muted compared to how it sounds on the AUD, where it sounds more like Keith's playing off Jerry. Actually, Pigpen also comes in on organ at the beginning of Caution, and that's heard MUCH better on the SBD; it's quieter & more vague on the AUD. (And, on the contrary, the audience cheers that are very apparent on the AUD pretty much disappear on the SBD, as usual.)
The interesting thing is - listening to the old crappy circulating SBD of 4/29/72? Keith is right in the middle and up WAY more in the mix than he is on the official CD. All the instruments, from Weir to the organ, are up at an equal level. In fact, aside from the poor sound of our tapecopy, as a mix I think it's better than what Norman did!

In short, though 4/29 is a show where Keith is still up in the official SBD mix, there are still a few differences from the more 'accurate' AUD that make it clear why the official CD can't be taken as a "true record" of the show, even if it's a better mix! It definitely can't be taken to represent what the audience heard, and I'm sure that wasn't its purpose. The new mix is more a creative decision by Jeff Norman in 2011 about what it "should" sound like.

That said, I should add that by no means is Keith always low in the mix in this set - in many shows he's just as present as he was on our old tapes, or even louder. (4/21/72 is certainly a vast improvement. And Keith was always pretty quiet in our 5/7/72 second set tapes, I think.) It's just the exceptions, where he is quieter than in former mixes, that are disappointing.

This post was modified by light into ashes on 2011-11-11 01:17:04

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Poster: Cliff Hucker Date: Nov 10, 2011 3:30pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

"As for the sound in the halls, i was not suggesting it influenced what was on the tapes..."

It should have!

You bring up an entirely different point here, Larry. And one well worthy of discussion as well.

I do find the level of Keith's piano to be slightly low at various times, though it's not problematic. However, after spending enough time with the Euro Box, I find that the "sonic ambiance" of each performance is virtually the same. Which of course is not the case with the circulating recordings in our collections.

In particular I find that the unique vibe of both the Lille (5/13/72) and Radio Luxembourg (5/16/72) shows has been entirely lost in the vault remastering.

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Poster: elbow1126 Date: Nov 10, 2011 3:43pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 'Keith is low in the mix'

The only "show" that sounds really different to me is Bremen. Funny that the sonic ambience only comes through in a studio!

Admittedly i don't really understand how the sonic ambience of a hall would influence what is caught on a sbd recording. I always assumed Luxembourg sounded different because of the broadcast not because of the hall. I never thought the sound of Lille was so different but the vibe from the band was unique because they were influenced by the scenery.